“Alas,” he added, “your sadness, your joys, I have not the right to know them.” She turned toward him a glance almost harsh. “You do not think that I shall take you for a confidante, do you?” And she walked away brusquely.
“You must take me with my own soul!”
After dinner, in the salon of the bells, under the lamps from which the great shades permitted only an obscure light to filter, good Madame Marmet was warming herself by the hearth, with a white cat on her knees. The evening was cool. Madame Martin, her eyes reminiscent of the golden light, the violet peaks, and the ancient trees of Florence, smiled with happy fatigue. She had gone with Miss Bell, Dechartre, and Madame Marmet to the Chartrist convent of Ema. And now, in the intoxication of her visions, she forgot the care of the day before, the importunate letters, the distant reproaches, and thought of nothing in the world but cloisters chiselled and painted, villages with red roofs, and roads where she saw the first blush of spring. Dechartre had modelled for Miss Bell a waxen figure of Beatrice. Vivian was painting angels. Softly bent over her, Prince Albertinelli caressed his beard and threw around him glances that appeared to seek admiration.
Replying to a reflection of Vivian Bell on marriage and love:
“A woman must choose,” he said. “With a man whom women love her heart is not quiet. With a man whom the women do not love she is not happy.”
“Darling,” asked Miss Bell, “what would you wish for a friend dear to you?”
“I should wish, Vivian, that my friend were happy. I should wish also that she were quiet. She should be quiet in hatred of treason, humiliating suspicions, and mistrust.”
“But, darling, since the Prince has said that a woman can not have at the same time happiness and security, tell me what your friend should choose.”
“One never chooses, Vivian; one never chooses. Do not make me say what I think of marriage.”
At this moment Choulette appeared, wearing the magnificent air of those beggars of whom small towns are proud. He had played briscola with peasants in a coffeehouse of Fiesole.
“Here is Monsieur Choulette,” said Miss Bell. “He will teach what we are to think of marriage. I am inclined to listen to him as to an oracle. He does not see the things that we see, and he sees things that we do not see. Monsieur Choulette, what do you think of marriage?”